Recent Media Coverage

Foods of the Forest: Ontario Nature’s Forage North Program

Stewardship Network of Ontario,
Williams Stolz,
November 13, 2014

Summer 2014 was busy for Ontario Nature’s Boreal Program staff located in Thunder Bay. As part of a new two-year pilot project named Forage North, staff members have been working to strengthen the local food economy, community health and environmental sustainability in northern Ontario by increasing the appreciation, supply and distribution of edible wild plants.

The project began last year with a survey of northern Ontario residents’ awareness, consumption and opinions of forest and freshwater foods. From the hundreds of responses across northern Ontario, it was determined that the majority of residents would be willing to purchase locally-harvested forest and freshwater foods if they are more widely available. Although 91 percent of respondents harvest plants for personal consumption, only 7 percent forage plants for income. A lack of skill-sharing was identified as a significant threat to the future of forest and freshwater systems in northern Ontario.

Survey data demonstrated that forest and freshwater foods are an undervalued resource that can be used to boost community economic development, personal health and environmental protection. Knowing this, Ontario Nature set out to provide edible wild plant workshops in northern Ontario communities including Thunder Bay, Kenora, and Dryden.

Workshop participants learned how to identify, sustainably harvest, prepare and store forest and freshwater foods.

Expert workshop leaders included Karen Stephenson, the founder of ediblewildfood.com; Dr. Leonard Hutchison, mycology professor at Lakehead University; Dave St. Amand, who teaches mushroom foraging courses at Confederation College; Elder Raphael Moses, author of Holistic Adventures; Shannon Vanlenthe, a local preserves expert; and Laura Reeves of Prairie Shore Botanicals.

The workshops were very successful, with over 425 people attending. Feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with participants reporting that the information provided will help them forage a greater diversity of edible wild plants.

In the second year of the project, Ontario Nature will work with the True North Community Cooperative and the Cloverbelt Local Food Cooperative to build capacity for forest and freshwater food entrepreneurs.

For additional information on forest and freshwater food, download this related, free report: Beyond the Fields: The Value of Forest and Freshwater Foods in Northern Ontario Report

For additional information on Ontario Nature’s Forage North Program, contact Williams Stolz at (807) 286-1788 or wills@ontarionature.org.

Article submitted by Williams Stolz, Forest and Freshwater Food Coordinator, Ontario Nature. Ontario Nature is a charitable, membership-based conservation organization established in 1931 that works to protect Ontario’s wild species and wild spaces through conservation, education and public engagement. Ontario Nature has more than 145 member groups and 30,000 individual members and supporters across the province. This grassroots network is the strength of Ontario Nature, allowing the organization to carry out successful local projects as well as national and provincial initiatives.

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